Answers and Updates

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: A collection of updated information to recent posts and answers to questions from readers.

1) Joe Rocket Survivor Suit

I am surprised by the number of questions about the Joe Rocket Survivor Suit. They seem to be coming from both touring riders and commuters alike. No, I haven’t really done a water/leak test as yet. Summer will be over all too soon and I will get that drenching test done then. I like this suit more than I thought I would. Its actually really easy to get in an out of once you get the routine down. I had thought that because its a suit I would wear it less often than my jacket and overpants combo, but no. The Survivor suit has been subjected to temps in the mid-eighties and even though it is black for the most part I am well ventilated with all of the flaps and the “Big Air Vent.” I have been wearing it much of the time with the thermal liner out but have on a few occasions worn it in the evening with the liner in. Its plenty warm.

The reflective panels seem adequate to give you decent visibility in traffic although I haven’t changed my mind about wanting more. I am just a big hi-viz freak.

2) Firstgear Kilimanjaro Jacket

I have done some rudimentary field tests on the visibility of this jacket in traffic. It involves friends loitering on a corner in a busy part of town and then waiting to see how long it takes to catch sight of the jacket as I come toward them on the busy road in both day and night tests. It is as you suspect. The jacket is a real winner in the vision tests. The only downside is that the black reflective tape is nowhere near as bright as the silver tape you see on so many other jackets. I would like to see Firstgear move to a higher visibility reflective tape in the future.

Ventilation is good and I haven’t had any trouble on warm days with the vent zippers open. On warm days, of course,  I just zip out the thermal liner. The jacket seems a bit bulky (its a full ¾ length touring jacket) until you are up and riding and then you really don’t notice it.

3) Pinlock Shield setup for my Arai RX-Q helmet

Yup, I still like my Pinlock setup and I do wind up changing them out on long day rides. Recently, I have done a few rides up and over Mt. Tamalpais of late and I started out with the light grey replacement visor on but when I got to Marin the weather was foggy. I stopped and swapped in the yellow visor and it changed the whole ride. Online you will find folks who pop Arai SAI shields in and out like buttah but it is still a bit of a cumbersome project for me. I am getting better at it though – practice.

Now that I have the Tourmaster Select Lid Pack helmet bag I just leave my two most used shields in the bag – being careful how I fold and store the bag.

4) Sas-Tec VS. D3O

This is another one where people have written in quite a bit for further clarification. I suspect this is an indication of the level of confusing info out on the interwebz regarding the stat’s for both Sas-Tec and D3O. Here is the bottom line:

Some of the high end Sas-Tec armor (according to their own ratings) affords more protection than does the high end D3O armor (according to their own ratings.) The Sas-Tec Prestige SC-1/42 joint armor gear comes in at an impressive 6KN (the lower the number here the better.) It has a universal-fit design and it can be used for shoulder, knee and elbow. That’s nifty.  Their SC 2/07 hip protector is 9KN. The SC-1/06 knee is 11KN. The Back armor comes in 5 sizes and has prefixes that are either SC or SK (SK-1/55, SC-1/11, SC-1/12, SC-1/16, SC-1/13.) It bells in at 6 KiloNewtons of transmitted impact to the anvil. So, by my way of thinking I can get pretty good coverage with 3 sets of the Prestige SC-1/42 and one SC-1/16 back pad. Throw in the hip protector and I am done. The newest Scorpion textile gear comes from the factory with Sas-Tec Level one armor.

D3O’s Highest end gear is their Xergo (joint armor) and Viper Stealth Pro (back armor.) They ring in at 11-12 KiloNewtons (the lower the number the better.) I have to believe these numbers because they are done by independent labs contracted by the European Union and not done by the manufacturers of the gear themselves.  This is still within the range of the CE Level 2 cert’s. The newest Firstgear TPG line has their T5 EVO- Pro molecular armor installed from the factory – this is level two armor in all but hot weather where it just drops into the level one category..

I am ordering up some Sas-Tec armor to swap into the Joe Rocket suit (crossing my fingers that it will be a swap fit) as I seem to be riding a great deal with the Survivor these days. More on the fit and feel of that trade out when the armor comes in. I hope this finally makes sense of the numbers game with the molecular armor for those seeking the most highly rated gear.

5) A while back there were questions about heated gear. I will research this and order some up before the fall chill hits. Hang on for a heated gear report in a couple of months.

Please Keep the questions coming.

—–

Gerde Applethwaite

Tourmaster Select Lid Pack Helmet Bag

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: After shopping it out I bought a Tourmaster Select Lid Pack helmet bag to protect my helmet.

I recently put Pinlock shields on my Arai RX-Q (mmmm, shiny new shields) and I wanted to provide adequate protection for my helmet and face shields when off the bike. I looked around on the interwebz and found that helmet bags run from about $16 to over $125. It wasn’t my intention to spend a lot of money on this – I just wanted something in which to put my helmet.

The Tourmaster Select Lid Pack, at $31.00, became my ultimate choice. It is sort of teardrop shaped and is made of your standard woven black nylon material. The interior liner is a soft flannel-like stuff and it seems durable. The liner extends over the zippers and protects the helmet and shield from zipper scratches – amazingly some helmet bags do not have covered zippers. There is also an inner pocket of the same soft material to store an extra shield. I put two of my (sleeved) Pinlock inner visors in the pocket and now I have a protected place to store a change of visors when I am on a ride.

Tour Master made this bag with two long adjustable straps and it is more like a back pack than a suitcase. That’s what I wanted, hands-free carrying scenario. It makes sense to me to be able to sling this thing over my shoulder rather than being forced to lug it around in my hand. This backpack feature and the visor storage were the main things that sold me on this particular bag, yeah and the price.

The construction is simple and sturdy and it comes with 2 zippers. The larger zipper gives you enough room to nestle a full-face helmet into the bag while the shorter second zipper gives you access to the same compartment but on the opposite side. I use it put my gloves into the bag once the helmet is in.

If I am in an area where I trust my kit and kaboodle unlocked around my bike I simply sling the straps over the handlebar and let the bag dangle. If I am in any other environment I just take the bag with me. That’s the idea. I don’t want to leave my Arai RX-Q dangling from its d-ring on the side of the bike even if it is locked up.

The bag cost me less than a replacement shield – what’s not to like?

Gerde Applethwaite

New For Fall 2013 – Icon Jackets and Gear

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: The Moto gear manufacturers are starting to release their fall stuff and here is a look at some of the kit from Icon.

Icon Jackets:

Icon is always very good with the naming thing. It’s unrelentingly evocative of… something. They have an entire new line called “Overlord Resistance” (see what I mean.) The jacket has the look of tactical armor to reify the product name. The line runs from helmets to jackets to pants to gloves to boots. You can be Overlord resistant from head to toe.  Sometimes the creative enthusiasm of the folks in the ad department runs away with Icon but I have to giggle along with them under my breath. When you are deciding whether or not to buy this Icon gear you will have to interpret the practical meaning of terms from their marketing wizards like; “Attack Fit”, “Fighter Mesh” and “Tactical Front.” I want to work for them. I want to be a part of the team that sits around the Cheetoh-laden table and comes up with this stuff. It must be two and a half hoots. I could be “Gerde the Indomitable, Ruler of the CE-EN471 Dominion and Grand Panjandrum of the Viscoelastic Knights.” Yeah, that’s me – Indomitable wot’s it.” Where do I sign?

Once again, as I mention every 10 minutes, I am really only interested in full hi-viz gear for my personal riding kit but I am attempting to overcome my personal bias while I look toward the new offerings from the major gear makers.

Having said that let’s take a look at the Icon Overlord Resistance jacket with EN471 hi-viz accents. This jacket is complete with D3O armor all around. Yup (!) all around — the back armor too! Hallelujah. I wish they all had it. Thank you Icon! This D3O is only level 1 but the form factor should allow you to swap in the Level 2 D3O if you are interested in the high end molecular armor (for more about the differences in viscoelastic armor see my earlier post “Traversing the Molecular Maze.”)

This Overlord Resistance jacket is a sport-bike rider, waist-cut, design. The jacket has pre-curved arms so that you are not fighting with your jacket in order to get comfortable on the bike. The neck is your standard sport bike style crew neck. The hi-viz inserts are not enough for me but I am suppressing my urge to lecture about hi-viz. In this case I am just thankful they have a hi-viz offering at all. According to the Icon video for this jacket you will want to: “approach, engage and vanish” from The Overlord with this look. There are 4 other options including; a white with black accents, a solid black, a red with black accents and a wild looking thing that is blue with pink accents.  Yes, you can resist The Overlord in the pink and blue jacket. I am the Indomitable Wot’s It and I say so.  For more details about the construction and fit look to our Icon jackets pages.

Icon Citadel Mesh Jacket:  They come in; full black, black with hi-viz, black with red and grey with grey. There is, like the Overlord jacket, a removable thermal vest for those days when the weather starts to get a bit chilly. This is a mesh jacket so you get plenty of venting here – they call it “large hole Iron Weave Mesh” and the only thing that keeps me from the temptation to hyphenate every word is that the first two are not capitalized

Icon Overlord Pants: The Icon Overlord jacket zips to the Overlord Resistance pants and for some reason I am now conjuring up an image of Eddie Izzard on stage in Overlord Resistance pants. This too will pass. The pants are are equipped with D3O armor in the knees and its also level 1 D3O. Unusual for standard street fare is the inclusion of pucks in the knees. The armor is a molded puck but has something called Battlehide Leather and Fighter Mesh. Come on, tell me you don’t want to work for them too? The pants are black and have the standard back zipper to mate them with the jacket. These are not overpants.

Icon Insulated Denim Pant: Don’t want to wear leather or textile riding pants to your mother in law’s BBQ later in the month? Icon has a pair of Insulated Denim Pants that have a removable insulated liner, D30 armor and an Aramid fabric inner patch over the knee.  They look like your standard blue jeans but there is armor inside.

Icon Citadel Mesh Pant: These pants are the mate to the Citadel jacket. They hook and loop to the jacket. They are not overpants.

Icon Helmets: The helmet for the Overlord ensemble is an Icon Airframe Helmet in a matt black with a yellow visor. It is called the “Airframe Ghost Carbon.’ Yup, its a medium oval, carbon fibre version of the Airframe helmet and it weighs 1450 grams. The helmet has all of the standard cert’s. Not the least of which is the ECE 22.05.

The Icon Airmada Helmet line has not been ignored. You will find no less than 14 new graphic schemes to complicate your choice.

Icon Gloves: There are new gloves that are a part of both the Overlord Resistance and the Citadel Mesh packages. The Overlord Resistance Gloves are wrist length and the Citadel Waterproof Gloves are gauntlet style. The color schemes of the gloves are in tandem with those of the Icon jackets. I am more a fan of gauntlet gloves these days so let’s look at those.

The Icon Citadel Waterproof Glove has a Hipora liner to keep the water out. It has their Battlehide leather on the finger tips and to help prevent knuckle damage in a get off they use TPR that is bonded to the glove in this new welding process that we see on all of the fall gear. They are just under $100.00.

Icon Boots: The New boots are called “Field Armor 2 Boots.” They come in a grey and a black and are equipped with a steel shank, 2 buckle closure system and a Goodyear welt. Oh yeah, they are just above the ankle style boots.

Next up – What’s new from Alpinestars.

Gerde Applethwaite

Save a Friend, Save Yourself

Shorter:  You are out on a ride on a country road with a friend. Your friend is ahead and disappears into a sweeper turn. You come around the bend to find said pal on the ground and the bike mangled a few feet away (deer? a car? oil on the road? It matters not for this tale.) What do you do first? Quickly now. What’s first?

Do you:

A) Get off your bike and attend immediately to your wounded friend?

B) Call 911?

C) Go back up the road to stop traffic and prevent a car or two from rolling over you both?

Alright, let’s make this a bit easier.

You are riding with 3 friends and 1 is injured. You have the presence of mind to send 1 rider up the road to warn traffic as you rush to your friend on the ground with your phone in hand. Traffic is safely stopped, 911 has been dialed (you were so lucky to get a signal way out here. So lucky.) Now you need to assess your friend and stabilize him. Are you a doctor?  You are not.  Are you perhaps a paramedic? You are not? What the frack to do?

Maybe you have taken a Red Cross class on trauma care. That would be good. You know enough not to precipitously drag your bud off of the road for fear of damaging him even further, perhaps fatally. The traffic is not a problem for you now and their looky-loo impatience to both move on and also take a good long gander at the scene are of no concern. Your mind is racing. Tick Tock. Is he conscious? Airway constricted? Can he tell you where it hurts? Can he move? Is anything broken? Are you worried about how much blood he has lost?

By the way, while we’re here let me ask — do you have a first aid kit under your seat? What’s in it? Bandaids and some Neosporin? That’s a start, bandaids are always a good idea but this is much more serious. What to pack?

There is gasoline spilling from your friends tank and 50 feet up the road one of the motorists, a well intentioned samaritan, pulls a couple of road flares out of the trunk of his car. A small crowd has gathered and starts to encircle you and your friends – back them off a little. Everyone has an idea.  You don’t need a ‘leader’ to take charge here – what you need to do is methodically, calmly, tick chores off of a mental list. Training in first aid and trauma aid will help you manage that list. You need collaborators. Send someone up the road to stop the guy with the flares. Get a couple of other people to shift the broken bike off the road and stop the gas leak. Maybe one of the cage drivers has a fire extinguisher. Find out.  It would be nice to keep that handy just in case. Many of these chores will be taken up by the people around you. Focus on your friend and apply your knowledge of first aid.

If he is in bad shape and you have ascertained that it will take some time for an ambulance to come then find out if you can get a Med-evac copter in there. Yes? Have someone scout the nearest landing spot. Is it going to be the roadway? Clear it of cars and cordon off that area. Let someone take care of that on another cell phone.

Let’s say you are luckier even still and while your friend’s bike is toast (because he is all ATGATT kitted out – motorcycle helmet, jacket, pants, boots, gloves) he has only suffered a sprained wrist. What do you do to immobilize the hand or do you just leave it alone?

Also, and I hate to bring this up, not everyone at the scene may be worthy of your trust. The scene is chaotic and it doesn’t take much for some stooge to go through your tank bag or that of one of your riding partners. Try to cluster your bikes together and see if you can get one of your buddies to keep more than half an eye on them. Yeah, its too much to contemplate that in the midst of this nightmare someone would rip you off but this is a tough planet. Don’t go all paranoid on me but just remain aware of your surroundings. Everyone in your crew should have their cell phones and any other pricey electronics on them while they wander around the site.  Your accident may not happen on a bucolic country road. The more chance there is for civilians to wander through the scene the higher the likelihood that you will get ripped off. ‘Nuff said.

Getting yourself trained up to be of help to yourself or another is a great idea whether it be at a car accident, a farm accident, a boating mishap or some bike smashingham. Merde avoir lieu. There is a guy who wrote a couple of books about first aid for motorcyclists. His name is Flash Gordon M.D. and I commend his books to you. He is a rider and it so happens that he is also an emergency room doctor. The books are: Blood, Sweat and Gears: Ramblings on Motorcycles and Medicine and the followup Blood, Sweat and 2nd Gear: More Medicine for Motorcyclists.  These 2 books will go a long way toward getting you up to speed. I repeat the recommendation that you take some first aid training through your community college or a group like the Red Cross (or its equivalent) where you live. This training will hold you in good stead no matter where you find yourself. Be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem.

Ride hard, ride safe and live to ride another day.

Gerde Applethwaite

Scorpion EXO-900 Transformer – Rider’s Review

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: The CE rated Scorpion EXO-900 is really a Swiss Army knife sort of helmet with a variety of features and plenty of versatility. The price seems more than reasonable to me too.

I took note of the Scorpion EXO-900 when it came out but I didn’t focus on it because I wasn’t interested in a modular unit. Now that I am an eyeglass wearer (see my previous post entitled Eyeglass Update) I have taken a closer look at the whole modular helmet scenario. I like the Scorpion because it is versatile, well thought out, CE rated and (absolutely mandatory for me) comes in a hi-viz flavor.

My head girth rings in at 60 cm.  This usually puts me right on the cusp of the medium and large dome sizes. Scorpion’s size chart steers me to the large. I popped it on and found, voila, the best fitting helmet I have ever had. The EXO-900 fits my head perfectly. I am what is known as a medium oval and this helmet feels as though it was custom crafted for my skull bone.

Ok, let’s start going through the features. The EXO-900 has a drop-down, fighter pilot, style of sunvisor. You work it with a modest push or pull on a left side lever and its easy with a gloved hand. The action is quick and smooth. When the visor drops down it pops gently off of your nose and then back up a little. Your nose may vary but for me it was just a gentle tap and then it was resting without contact. It retracts pretty easily too. The visor never got in the way of my eyeglasses. The visor is not polarized but it is dark enough to cut down on bright sunlight and its a neutral grey color. I would have preferred a nice brown lens but that’s me.

The whole modular unit hinges up and down by pulling outward on a red button on the chinbar. This too is easily done with a gloved hand. The chinbar moves up and rests on the top of the helmet. The motion is easy and sure. Scorpion goes you one better and once you have positioned the chinbar in the right place and pulled back on the 2 safety catches you can remove the chinbar unit in its entirety thereby leaving you with an open-faced helmet (with the drop-down sun visor.) That’s a neat trick. The mounting points are two bayonet style tabs in the chinbar. The tabs work in combination with the spring loaded safety catches that open up the receiving holes a bit so that you can insert the tabs. This whole operation is a bit tricky at first…and second … but by the fifth time I had it knocked. Please note that I have a bit of a hard time with shield swap outs and I have always found my Arai shields a bit of a test so I am clearly not the standard by which this process should be judged.

When you have finished removing the chinbar its time to install what Scorpion calls the “3/4 Peak Visor.” This is a plastic crescent that sits atop the upper ridge of the helmet’s face opening and snaps down along the sides of the face opening of the helmet. This makes the helmet look more like an open-faced helmet with a mini-bill, like the Shoei RJ Platinum-R. The Peak Visor uses the same bayonet and latch points that the chinbar utilizes. Once you suss the lineup, and with some practice, it also pops on and off pretty quickly. Make sure its all fully seated before you put the helmet on.

There are only two vents on the helmet and that makes sense – if you want more air take the chinbar off. Both vents open and close easily with a gloved hand: a top vent and a rear vent. I rode with the chinbar down and both vents open on a 78° day and it wasn’t stuffy inside the helmet.

The helmet has Scorpion’s air pump “Airfit” system that inflates segments of the padding around the lower part of your chin. There is a rubberized, red, circular button on the rear helmet padding: push the button – inflate the air bag. Press a small button next to the big button and release the air, hey presto. You do this with the helmet on your head and you stop when it feels right. The action on my test helmet was pretty minor so I took another Scorpion off the shelf to check it out. Apparently the inflated bag isn’t huge and the effects are subtle. I assume it will work to keep the helmet in place when you land and I can’t find any reason not to like it as long as it holds up. This is yet another clever idea from Scorpion. I have been an Arai person for years and years but I am starting to like these guys. I recently reviewed one of the Scorpion jackets and I liked the way that was put together too.

Having said that I must note that because the helmet is a modular it is necessarily heavier than my Arai. Because the Scorpion EXO-900 is a modular it is also noisier than my Arai full-face. I wear custom molded ear plugs and I also have tinnitus (life takes it tolls) so I may not be the most critical evaluator of wind noise. My testing equipment has been repeatedly and foolishly placed next to too many mega-concert speakers and has been hung out in the wind on too many unhelmeted motorcycle rides. Ahh, that’s all behind me now – sorry, what did you say?

I have two bikes, one has a moderate sized windscreen (bigger than a sport bike thumbnail but smaller than, say, a Vetter) and the other has no screen at all. The wind coming off of my screen at freeway speeds hit the helmet at an angle that seemed to catch under the ¾ Peak Visor and push my head back more than I am accustomed to. I am going to go for a ride without the chinbar and Peak Visor just to see what the wind does to the helmet on both bikes. The wind thing is tricky and you really have to match the helmet to your bike as well as to your head.

The padding material is wicking, removable and washable and feels like flannel pj’s. against your delicate skin. No, really.  As I said at the top the helmet’s interior fit me perfectly and yeah, way comfy.

The visor is billed as super strong and optically correct. From what I hear Scorpion has the visor thing down. It is also equipped with an anti-fog treatment called “EverClear” (no, not the same stuff) that they guarantee for a year. I have just gotten used to my Arai Pinlock system and fog is a thing of the past for me but riding around with EXO-900 I noticed no fogging either with the sun visor up or down. There is a chin curtain that snaps into place as well.

There are a variety of colors but quite frankly all I care about is hi-viz. They have it – I like it.

Oh – lest I forget, there are also external ports built into the helmet for a communication system. Just pop out the cover plates and install the comm.system. Scorpion does not make its own proprietary system but a host of manufacturer’s have designed adapter plates for this helmet. If you want a comm. system this should be a straightforward alteration.

All in all this is a dandy helmet and it is another of those products that I find to be well made and feature packed. Helmets keep getting better every year.  If you are already a modular wearer this one is a fine replacement and if you wear glasses this is a strong candidate for your next helmet.

Gerde Applethwaite

When To Rehelmet?

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: How long should you hold onto that old helmet before you let it go?

My assignment this week was to write an honest blog piece about when it is the right time to ditch your helmet and re-up for a new one. There are some obvious answers and then there are some that seem not so much.

Before I started working on this post I had to bicycle over to the store to get some more apple juice. The ride took me onto a bridge over an estuary. I walk the bike over that bridge because I like the water. I find it enjoyable to stroll the bridge’s length and watch the world go by. There was a seagull flying slowly about 30 feet over the drink: it tilted one wing toward the water and the other straight up into the sky. In that moment she had dumped the air from her wings, lost most of her air speed, did one cartwheel and pitched straight down toward the water head first. in the descent she pulled her wings in about two thirds. When she was only a few feet off of the water she snapped her wings out full in a braking and gliding maneuver and then bobbed her head underwater to grab a small redish fish. With but two big flaps of her wings she avoided crashing into the drink and was back up in the air again. Its an astonishing feat of skill and grace to witness. There was a short stuttering motion as she flew off: she had just slid the small fish down her gullet. Done and done, the fish never knew what hit it.

One of the campfire rituals with riders is the exchange of harrowing accident or near accident stories. These stories run the gamut from hitting the headlight frozen deer on the back country road to being struck by some  #%@ing texting teen making a left turn. Most of the time riders say stuff like “he/it came out of nowhere.” These accidents happen so quickly and there is often no time to react. We’re not the bird – we’re the fish. If they were very lucky there were no, or minimal, injuries and the gear took the brunt of it. You may not need to get rid of your jacket or riding pants but if your helmet had an accident impact it has to go. No no – it has to go. The combination of stress fractures in the shell combined with compression of the inner EPS liner foam render the helmet useless for anything other than a planter* or a bird house. The liner is incapable of protecting you from impact injury after it has suffered one impact. There is a nice video shot at the Nolan factory that shows the helmet testing procedure and the most interesting part for me was the moment when they restruck a helmet and looked at the dent in the surface. After one impact the helmet loses its ability to adequately distribute the force of the blow over the surface of the helmet. It really brought home the idea that you cannot reuse your helmet after you have had an accident with it. Even a small impact is enough. Not a ding like dropping it off of the cocktail table or the seat of your bike but certainly when you have a get-off and strike your helmet. How small a get-off? Good lord man just get a new helmet! How much is your brain worth? Replacing your helmet after an accident is a pretty clear choice for most riders but the rest of it is not so clear.

You can find lots of advice from people who want to sell you a helmet (yeah – like us)  about when a helmet ages out. It becomes difficult to get the straight dope. The most widely accepted idea is that you replace your motorcycle helmet every 5 years. Why? Well uh… because it wears out, that’s why. Well, what wears out? The uhhh, EPS liner foam interacts with your sweat and that diminishes it structural reliability – yeah, that’s the ticket. Really? Can’t they make a liner that doesn’t interact with your body oils or sweat? Well, yes, in fact the whole thing is a canard. The liner isn’t affected by your sweat or scalp oils. Your helmet may stink but the EPS liner isn’t necessarily diminished.

Many of the helmet manufacturers will talk about liner degradation from body oils or sweat but this information is the subject of some serious question. There is a nice article by the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute and among other things it addresses this issue. The bicycle helmet liner is made of the same EPS foam material that is used in motorcycle helmets.

Can your EPS liner be diminished by solvents or cleaning agents. Yes, it appears so. If five years isn’t the standard for degradation what is? There is no hard and fast rule here. Other sources are as generous as eight years. If you notice that your helmet seems to fit more loosely on your head than it used to it is more likely due to abrasion of the liner and/or reduction of the liner by cleaning agents and not because your head is shrinking. In either case its time for a new helmet.

Your helmet’s integrity is indeed reduced by the ultraviolet rays of sunlight. The helmet is plastic and plastic does not play well with UV.  How long does it take to render your helmet unsafe? It depends upon the materials as some of the composites resist UVA and UVB better than others. What are those composites? I do not have a danged clue. I have read that many manufacturers are putting UV inhibitors into their shell plastics to slow this decay. This reinforces the notion that your helmet has a use-by date regardless of its impact history.

Alright let’s sling some product.

Helmet quality gets better every year and the prices are remarkably low for a helmet that offers more than reasonable protection for your brain case. You can get a perfectly nice Scorpion EXO-400 for a mere $110.00. I like that helmet. Too much for you? You can get an HJC-5N Open Face (solid) for an astonishing $68.00.  A Bell Arrow (either solid or graphic) for one Benjamin. How about a an HJC CL-16 (solid), a workhorse of a helmet, for only $117.00. I don’t often go into sales pitch mode but the point I am truly trying to make here is that you do not have to spend a lot of money to be allowed the opportunity to convert your old helmet into a bird house.  Why risk a concussion or more serious damage for a mere hundred dollars?

Step up another hundred bucks or so and you can get higher quality shells, more comfortable wicking liners, more durable face shields or in some even drop down sun visors.

Look into the Shark S700 (solid) for $210.00 or the Nolan N-90 N-Comm (solid) for $220.00. They are both very good helmets. Lots of choices – one brain to protect.

I recently demo’d a Scorpion EXO-900 Transformer [ed. that review will be posted soon] helmet because after my last eye exam, came the mandate that I wear glasses when I drive/ride. Modular helmets have now become more interesting to me. I liked that helmet. It has an amazing assortment of bells and whistles and it is CE rated. It fit my head perfectly too. Switching to a modular for my next purchase is definitely in the cards. It makes the whole eyeglass thing so much easier.

For years I rode with Shoei helmets. I wore out two RF200′s and had no complaints about either those helmets or any later Shoei head buckets I wore. I respect the Shoei name because they held me in good stead for many years.  Shoei has my attention once again because of their modular Neotec and also their full-face GT Air. When its time for me to go helmet shopping again they are high on my list.

I currently ride with an Arai RX-Q. The RX-Q is a replacement for my then five year old Arai Corsair. I followed the five year rule. I might not have had to but I figured I needed to do what I could to protect what few brain cells I have left.

Helmet integrity is reduced by an impact, by ultraviolet radiation and by abrasion of the interior liner and/or the liner’s contact with some solvents or cleaning agents. The decision to replace your helmet is, so to speak, a no-brainer. The decision to replace due to insults other than impact are a bit less straightforward. I would err on the side of caution. Take a gander at our helmet offerings and take another look at your helmet. Yeah, sure you can replace your helmet because you want something matching your gas tank color and we’d be tickled sideways to have your money but more importantly if your helmet is compromised surrender it to the finches or the orchids and get a new one.

* There are some wild and wondrous planters made from old motorcycle helmets (they will lend your garden something of the je ne sais quoi magic of a hubcap farm) and a quick tour of the interwebz will provide many ideas for other substantial and neighbor confounding things to do with your old helmet. Don’t throw it away, re-appropriate it. ‘No Madge – I’m re-appropriating it.’

 

Gerde Applethwaite

 

Eyeglass Update

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: I took a couple of helmets with me to the optician and wound up with conventional frames anyway.

This is just a quick note about my visit to the Costco opticians. They were great and really friendly. They didn’t giggle when I came in with the helmets, instead the woman who helped me was nonchalant and said that they get motorcyclists in there every once in awhile and they often bring helmets with them. Bring your helmet/s.

Bottom line for me is that I wound up with a rather conventional frame. I looked at the prices and I went with something inexpensive and traditional in shape because I know I am going to be rough on these frames and I’ll be back soon enough for a replacement. Why replace an expensive frame just to bang it up again? My approach to the selection process is utilitarian and not fashion oriented. Mind you, its not that I am not tempted by a vintage pair of rhinestone encrusted Auntie Mame sunglasses but that’s for the Playa and its just not the done thing under one’s helmet.

How do they fit into my helmets? I took my Arai RX-Q and I grabbed a Scorpion EXO-900 modular helmet too. The Modular is clearly easier to work with when it comes to getting glasses off and on. No question.

I have been wearing straight templed Smith sunglasses with my Arai RX-Q for some time but since I got myself set up with the Pinlock shields on the Arai RX-Q I haven’t worn sunglasses. The eyeglasses fit in the helmet more awkwardly than the sunglasses did because the ear end of the temple arm is curved (like a regular pair of glasses.) Its a snug fit and bending the glasses up and into that area between my head, my hair and the thick foam padding is a bit of a challenge.

On the other hand the modular helmet makes this task much easier. On the Scorpion EXO-900 I press the red button on the chin bar, flip up the front piece and I am now afforded much more room to wrangle the glasses onto my head. Its true what the eyeglass wearers say about flip-ups. This still mandates the dance of wedging the frame in beside the padding and my head but it is made all so much easier with the additional room afforded by the flip-up. I have never worn a modular helmet before but I could get used to this pretty quickly. I cannot envision riding with the modular unit in the open position but the combination of being able to pop it open when stopped and then quickly dealing with the glasses or talking to toll takers and gas station attendants makes a flip-up tempting. On the other hand if I wanted to ride with the helmet in open-face style I could because Scorpion has designed the EXO-900 Transformer helmet so that the entire modular front end can be removed (while it retains its CE rating.) My next post will be a rider’s review of the Scorpion EXO-900 Transformer.

There is a Shark modular helmet, the Evoline 3 ST, I want to look into because it too is rated CE 22.05. More about this helmet in the not too far distant future.

Get on out there.

Gerde Applethwaite

Traversing The Molecular Armor Maze

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: When buying armor purchase the CE – En1621-(1 and 2), level 2 gear and you will get the highest level of protection currently available.

The main goal in doing the research for this blogicle was to sort through the data and info about armor in order to find the best (most impact resistant) padding to insert into my new motorcycle jacket. I didn’t look into the separate, strap-on, back pad units that you see racers or dirt bikers running (like the Knox or Forcefield types) – I wanted armor to swap into the pouches of my jacket. I am not going off road – at least not intentionally. It gets a bit confusing but I hope to sort it out here and now.

My objective is pretty straightforward – I need to be as visible as possible to distracted drivers by wearing hi-viz clothing and I also want to protect myself by wearing good impact and abrasion resistant toggery. ATGATT. I am pretty well covered with a hi-viz Arai RX-Q helmet and a hi-viz textile jacket. The next thing is to dial in the armor.

The armor that comes with nearly all jackets is not the most highly rated you can get. The cost is kept down this way and if you’re really interested you can swap in better kit. In relative terms this replacement armor is not all that expensive. Compared to a hospital visit the armor is ridiculously cheap. This means pulling out the factory armor (with back armor it is often just a slice of place-holding foam with some holes in it) and replacing it with something designed to fit the pocket in your gear. This can be limiting because your pockets may not reasonably fit your replacement armor: it boils down to either doing some sewing work to change the pocket or cutting the armor to fit the pocket. The former is the smartest way to go but its also the most work and will of course void your warranty. Online you will find riders who talk about taking a knife to their new high end armor in order to make it fit the existing pocket.  I am reticent to do this. This means, for me, buying a jacket that has pockets designed to fit the form factor of the armor I choose. Now all of a sudden moto gear shopping becomes a matter of firstly finding the armor I want and then finding moto apparel makers that make clothing designed to fit that armor. This is a little backwards from the manner in which most of us shop for motorcycle clothing but it guarantees that I won’t be sitting at the kitchen table with a Sharpie and an electric carving knife.

The Europeans generally do the consumer protection stuff substantially better than do their stateside counterparts. They have come up with a European Union standard for motorcycle armor called CE: EN 1261-1,2 etc. The CE standard is used worldwide now to judge armor’s ability to withstand impact. Be advised though that there are various levels of CE rated armor and just because some guy on the interwebz tells you that some manufacturer’s gear is “CE rated” doesn’t mean that it is the most highly rated. “CE” is now used as part of the product hype and you should look a little deeper to find out what actual CE rating the gear you’re interested in actually conforms to.  Bear with me, I will try to make it as un-boring as possible.

In their labs the Euro tech gremlins (The EU fonctionnaires hire independent labs to do their testing) place the armor to be tested upon a round dome for hip, knee shoulder and elbow armor and upon a sort of rounded prism for back armor*. This anvil is loaded with sensors that detect the impact and the results are rated in Kilonewtons – earlier measurements were in Joules/metre (1 newton = .001KN or 1 Joule/metre.)  The armor is whacked with a hammerlike device and the results of the impact are measured. With this technology all motorcycle armor can be rated by its ability to withstand the transmission of the impact force from the impact hammer side to the anvil/sensor side. This is precisely what you want to know when you are out shopping for good armor. You are the anvil – asphalt be the hammer.

The human rib cage can withstand 4 kilo-newtons of force before ribs start to break. The only back armor that comes anywhere close to that is the stuff that passes the CE-EN1621-2, Level 2 test. That’s the stuff I want. For an additional $15 or $20 over the cost of the CE Level 1 armor why would you bother with Level 1?

CE has two broad categories for armor: the back armor is in one group and the hip, shoulder, knee and elbow are in the other. The testing scheme is a bit different and the expectations are different. Teh back armor regime is called CE-EN1621-2 (2003) and all of the other armor is categorized under CE-EN1621-1 (1997) [note too: there is a new provisional standard as of 2011, with 2 levels within that standard.]  We’re not done yet. As armor improved the CE added Levels to (now) both categories. There are Level 1 and Level 2 to tack onto the aforementioned number sets. The strongest armor in both groups is Level 2. Its not easy to get a Level 2 and one way that you get there is with the so-called molecular armor. From wikipedia comes this:

Level 1 protectors: The average peak force recorded below the anvil in the tests shall be below 18 kN, and no single value shall exceed 24 kN.

Level 2 protectors: The average peak force recorded below the anvil in the tests shall be below 9 kN, and no single value shall exceed 12 kN.”

Again, let me state for the purposes of clarity that the EN-1621-1 (1997) (2011) rating is for hip, knee, shoulder and elbow armor and the EN-1621-2(2003) rating is only for back armor. Then on top of that there are the 2 levels applied to both the 2003 and the 2011 standards. The higher the level the greater the protection. Some folks on the interwebz seem confused by this. If you want the strongest gear you need to look not only for 2011 provisional standard for the joint gear and the 2003 standard for the back gear BUT ALSO the level 2 rated stuff as well.

D3O and Sas-Tec are the primary manufacturers of molecular (viscoelastic) armor and they are not owned by any of the gear makers. D3O is designed and made in the UK and the Sas-Tec stuff is made in Germany. Molecular armor works in an intriguing way** and the cornstarch and water impact demos on youtube are worth a look. The armor is soft and pliable to the touch (making it more comfortable to ride with than hard puck type armor) but upon impact it hardens briefly and then returns to its original state. This property distributes and reduces the force of the impact dramatically. Old style hard armor has now been bested by this armor – but only when you go for the Level 2 viscoelastic armor.

Which is better the D3O or the Sas-Tec? Sas-Tec has a more competently laid out and informative website than do the folks at D3O. It was easier to get concrete information from Sas-Tec. I cannot clearly say at this point which one has the better high end armor than the other and my ultimate choice was also made by other factors, like different features on the jacket that I opted for.  At one time D3O was the only kid on the block. When Sas-Tec came along it is alleged that German miltiary bomb defusers used it on the soles of their shoes. The D3O is now being used as joint padding in some of the British miltary’s combat uniforms. As innovations continued apace. D3O came out with a generation of stronger armor and then another. D3O armor now comes in T5 (lightweight, lower protection), T6 (with a hard plastic shield on one side to help limit penetrations) and Xergo (thicker, Level 2 kit that gets you nearer to that 4 KN goal) flavors – each offering a bit more protection. Sas-Tec certainly has leading design innovation as well.

Sas-Tec’s high end joint armor is labeled Prestige SC-1/42 and when I squint at their chart (note: their charts are much more readable than are D3O’s) they indicate that the armor transmits a mere 6 KN to the body. Their SC and SK level 2 back armor rings in at about the same: 6 KN.

At this point I can tell you this. If you buy armor that is rated to CE-EN1621- 1 and 2, Level 2 you will be getting the highest rated armor currently available. The Scorpion Commander 2 jacket that I recently tested has Level 1 Sas-Tec armor in it when you buy it. The Firstgear Kilimanjaro jacket that I just tested comes stock with Level 1 D3O armor. With either of these jackets if you wanted the top end armor you would be able to swap out the scorpion with Sas-Tec Level 2 and the Firstgear with D3O Level 2 – they will swap straight out. Of course you cannot do a straight swap for the Sas-tec in a jacket that was designed for D3O and vice versa. You can also upgrade your old jacket to Molecular but it will require some time on the blogowebz to figure out the fitting constraints. You must also factor in your willingness to go at your older jacket with a scissors, needle and thread or alternatively your new armor with the electric turkey carver.

Here’s what I did: I researched jackets within my budget that had either D3O or Sas-Tec armor and then, after some waffling between the Firstgear Kilimanjaro (D3O) and the Scorpion Commander 2 (Sas-Tec), I popped for the Kilimanjaro. I then bought the D3O Viper Stealth Pro back armor (the “Pro” series is level 2 rated). Next up I will be ordering the D3O Xergo hip, knee shoulder and elbow inserts and they will all swap into my Firstgear clothing. Whoop-La, done and done.

I ordered my back armor insert from Klim because they actually had it in stock. Klim is one of the maker’s of gear that lays D3O armor into their motorcycle clothing and it is not surprising that they do so. D3O, in its its early day was often seen on the ski slopes and boarding half-pipes. Klim is a big maker of snow wear and Klim’s adoption of D3O into their motorcycle clothing was a natural one. Other makers are following as riders demand the best in protection. Demand the best in protection.

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* It is important to note that during my poking around on the webz I found documentation and commentary to indicate that the relative value of back armor to prevent or substantially reduce the possibility of spinal injury is, surprisingly, quite low. The majority of the damage to the spinal column is initiated by severe torquing of the head and neck and/or the hip. Back armor aids more in limiting injury to the ribs and also helps in both lowering bruising and organ damage. It is not as substantial a contributor to the prevention of spinal injury as most folks think.  [NB.: Cambridge Standard For motorcyclists Clothing, Roderick Woods.]

** I don’t want to make this post any more unwieldy than it already is so if you are interested in learning more about the unique property of the molecular armor take a look at wikipedia’s entry for “dilatant.”

Gerde Applethwaite

Vested Interest

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: Hi-viz vests are relatively inexpensive and increase your visibility when worn over your lo-viz jacket.

What do construction workers and reasonably smart motorcyclists have in common? Construction workers wear helmets to help protect them if and when something lands on their heads. Motorcyclists wear helmets to help protect them when they land on their heads. Construction workers wear bright hi-viz vests with reflective tape on them so that they can be readily seen on site and it helps avoid accidents. Reasonably smart motorcyclists wear hi-viz apparel, like vests, to be seen on the road and it helps avoid being struck by idiots on cell phones or idiots who might otherwise make left turns into them or idiots who are backing out of driveways or….

I have a few motorcycle jackets that are not hi-viz, indeed for the most part they are quite lo-viz. Pop on a hi-viz vest like the Fieldsheer, Fly Racing or Icon vests we offer and your old jackets are now brighter and more readily readable on the road. If you are not ready to buy a new hi-viz jacket you can get vastly improved visibility with a hi-viz vest at a substantially reduced cost. You need to be visible from your 6; if you are riding with a pillion passenger who is not wearing a hi-viz jacket put a hi-viz vest on them to make you both more visible to approaching traffic.

I recently bought a riding suit that didn’t have the level of visibility that I wanted so I popped for a hi-viz vest to wear with the suit. It works a treat. I wish that more hi-viz options were available but until they are the hi-viz vest just might be the thing to make it right.

The U.S. Military has sussed the value of conspicuity on their bases. They require that all folks on base who are riding a motorcycle or scooter where an approved Mil. Spec. hi-viz vest. They do this because they can….and because they do not want or need to have their people laid up in hospital. Its inconvenient. On the other side of the fence in civilian land no one can make you wear a hi-viz vest when you ride. we can only plead with you and show you the wisdom and sanity of the notion.

Broadly speaking hi-viz vests come in two flavors: you’ve got yer orange vest and you got yer  bright lime yellow/chartreusey vest. Either vest will do the trick but I have opted for the yellow/green vest because I believe it can be seen better at night than the orange.

As far as I am concerned the more reflective tape on the vest and the jacket and the pants the happier I am. The military spec. includes requirements for a certain size and intensity of reflectivity of the reflective tape. They do this to ensure that the reflective component isn’t merely stuck on as a sort of fashion afterthought. They want the tape to be there to aid in your visibility. Some of the non-Mil Spec. vests are better than others about this.

Gerde Applethwaite

 

 

Firstgear Kilmanjaro V. Scorpion Commander 2: Side By Side Comparison

by Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: The Firstgear Kilmanjaro and the Scorpion Commander 2 jackets are comparable in so many ways but they vary enough that you will find one with features you prefer.

Hi-viz motorcycle clothing is the only flavor that interests me right now – at least for my own personal use. I don’t expect that I will ever buy anything other than hi-viz moto apparel and I have written about this previously. If you want to know more take a look at my previous posts but on the off chance that you are not inclined or especially motivated in that direction let me briefly reaffirm my Conspicuity Mantra. It is as follows (or at least resembles the following): I want to be as bright and visible out on the highways and bi-ways of this great land as a massively outsized, nearly phosphorescent, chartreuse lollipop. I can be no clearer.

I have purchased a new jacket for the current riding season and in the process have taken note of all of the new hi-viz offerings. Among them are two jackets designed roughly within the same price range and for the same market. These are the Firstgear Kilimanjaro and the Scorpion Commander 2 textile touring jackets. I like them both and either one would be a great choice. Because they are so similar in so many ways I decided to take a really close look at both of them. I have them both before me now and while I have spent a fair amount of time reading up on them online no comparison can be adequate unless you have them in meatspace.  Looks aren’t all that important here but I have to note that the Scorpion jacket just has more styley style than the Firstgear. There are other considerations, in fact there are many. I will endeavor to be succinct.

Price: The Firstgear is about $60 less than the Scorpion. (the Scorpion is also slightly more costy for the uber large and/or tall sizes.)

Material: The Kilmanjaro is made of Nylon and the Commander 2 is of the polyester persuasion. Nylon is noted to be a stronger more durable material than polyester but polyester does not absorb and hold water the way that nylon does. This means that once your nylon jacket gets wet the longer it will stay wet. A wet jacket will draw body heat and make you colder. Nylon material will pill-up when frayed, the poly will not. Polyester absorbs and holds odors more so than nylon. They are both 600 denier across the main body panels.

Color: They Both share a bright hi-viz color (virtually identical in color) and both are equally visible from a distance. My lollipop visibility requirements are more than amply met by both. They are both a combination of black and hi-hiz and have sufficient hi-viz in front and back to make them effective. The Scorpion though has mostly black on the side panels below the armpit and this makes the jacket less visible to traffic from the side — a definite deciding factor for me.

Reflectivity: I don’t get this: both jackets are woefully lacking in reflectivity stripes. Why? If you are concerned enough about safety and visibility to buy the hi-viz option wouldn’t you want a bunch of 2” wide, really bright, reflective tape on your jacket as well? I say yes – both Scorpion and Firstgear disagree. Scorpion is woefully out of tune here and Firstgear isn’t much better. The Commander 2 reflectivity patches are sprayed on and more than half hidden under the top front pocket closures – although, even the Commander’s sprayed on the material is substantially brighter than the Kilimanjaro’s. The back and the arm bands aren’t too much better: Scorpion has sprayed on the reflective stuff in a 3/8” wide stripe at the shoulder (the junction between the black shoulder material and the hi-viz) and this thin band wraps around to the arm bands. Firstgear utilizes a reflectively weak black tape reflective sewn in. It glows anemically under light in the dark but during the day it blends fashionably with the black segments of the jacket. Firstgear seem to want to hide their reflectivity panels and blend them into the black bits. Scorpion seems ashamed that they had to put them in at all and hide them under a pocket flap.  Is this a style choice? Dunno why, as far as I am concerned the makers should flaunt their reflectivity touches not hide them.

Armor: The Commander 2 is set up with Level 1 Sas-Tec armor in the hips, knees, elbows and shoulders while the Kilimanjaro sports D3O. [See my post about armor “Traversing the Molecular Armor Maze” for more detailed information about armor.] They are ostensibly comparable and their armor is better than you will find in many jackets. Having said that Its worth noting that I swapped out the D3O (level 1) for the Viper Stealth Pro D3O (level 2) and the Xergo D3O (level 2) in the Kilimanjaro. I want the maximum protection available.

Cinching and Closures: Both jackets have adequate cinching belts wit TPR (Velcro-like) closures. They pull up just fine when you need to adjust the jacket. The Firstgear Kilimanjaro has a reputation for being Tent-like but I tested a medium in both jackets and they fit about the same. No excessive room in either.  I could wear a t-shirt and a fleece hoodie under each but not too much more.

The main zipper in both is the standard sturdy YKK. Kilimanjaro has one snap at the bottom and the hidden snaps all the way up. The Commander 2 has a 2 button snap on the bottom and nifty magnetic closures the rest of the way up. The magnetic closures work really well and they make opening and closing the front flap with cold and/or gloved hands really easy. The Kilimanjaro has a water seal flap across the front zipper and that gives you an extra water barrier. The Commander 2 has but one flap. On the inboard side of the zipper though the Commander 2 has an extra wall of flaps. It is a different approach to the same problem and I suspect that they are both equally as effective.

Fit and Feel: When you get them adjusted up for your body and riding position they both feel fine. They both have rubber coated buttons on the bottom to prevent damage to your gas tank when leaning forward. The Scorpion has a nice little stretch accordion panel above the elbow to make arm flexibility easier.

Pockets: I am not a big fan of lots of pockets on jackets because its too tempting to put stuff in there. If you land on your phone in a get-off it can bruise your ribs upon impact (or worse) to say nothing of destroying your phone. The scorpion has 4 big pockets on the outside front, the Firstgear has 2. Neither is lacking in pockets but the whole design of the Scorpion is a little sexier than the Firstgear. Both Manufacturers state that their pockets are waterproof.

I do like the reverse kangaroo pouch on the back of the Commander 2 and wish the Kili had one  too. these big pockets are really handy for storing your liners when you are riding on a warm day. They are also handy for storing your gloves when you get off the bike.

Waterproofing/Resistance: The Kilimanjaro has its waterproofing applied to the backside of its outer shell while the Commander 2 has a separate zip-in waterproofing liner. The Commander 2 has 2 liners and the Kilimanjaro has one. There is some discussion online about which is better – the separate waterproofing liner or the waterproof backing. One suit manufacturer dropped its separate water lining in favor of the bonded waterproofing. I cannot testify to the worthiness or the lack thereof of either. I haven’t given either jacket a water test.

Zippers: YKK all around. The Commander is easy to get in and out of but the Firstgear takes a bit of work to wriggle out of the sleeve. The Scorpion has zippers at the cuff while the Kilimanjaro  an accordion pleat. They both Have TPR cinching at the cuff. I prefer the Commander’s cuff setup.

Venting:  The Kilimanjaro circulates more air through the body because its vents are just longer.  They have 4 long vents on the front whereas the the Commmander has 4 short 4” vents. In hot weather you can shove a lot more air through the Kilimanjaro. In the front the Kilimanjaro features 2 – 10” vents running vertically along the chest and also 2 – 6” horizontal vents at the shoulder. that’s plenty of breathing room. On the back of the jacket its the same story; The Commander has 2- 4” vents whereas the Kilmanjaro has a long vent flap with a zipper that extends clear across the shoulder. One more thing: the Kilimanjaro has flaps covering all of the vents which is helpful in keeping out the driving rain and also in keeping the bugs from fouling your zippers.

Cuff Sealing: As stated I like the way the Commander handles the cuff sealing thing. The zippered cuff makes it easy to get in there and unsnap the liners and it opens up the jacket for easy exit. The Scorpion also has this nice fillip: the liner ends in a loop at the end of the sleeve so that you can rest the loop like a stirrup between your thumb and forefinger. This means it will stay down on your wrist when you put your gloves on and lean forward. Nice. I used to use a cutout pair of crew socks to do pretty much the same thing

Neck Seal: The neck closure on the Commander is Velcro-like and its an easy close with a gloved hand. You can also wrap the Velcro’y (TPR) tongue around to the inside to get it out of your way when you are riding with the zipper partially open. The neck closer on the Kilimanjaro is a button snap type with an adjustable housing for different neck sizes. It is fidgety to close with a gloved hand.

Thermal Liner: The Commander 2 has two liners as mentioned above. The inner liner is a thermal that seems about as thick as the Kilimanjaro. There is little difference to report but for the fact that the Commander’s liner is approx. 6” shorter than the Kilimanjaro’s. The Firstgear liner extends to near the bottom of the jacket while the Scorpion’s only goes as far as the zipper. This makes zippering your pants to the jacket a bit easier in the Scorpion but when riding without pants zipped to the jacket I would rather have the extra length in the thermal liner that the Firstgear affords.

All in all I think you will be fine with either jacket. I decided to go for the Firstgear Kilimanjaro because: it is nylon, It is $60 less and I really like the built in rain hood in the collar. The jackets are that close in most details that it becomes a coin toss. Just to give you an idea – I almost went with the Scorpion because it has brighter reflective material on it than the Firstgear and because I like the Commander’s Cuff seal system better.  I think the thing that really pushed me over was that the Kilimanjaro had more hi-viz material on it side panels. I think it just comes down to a personal choice between 2 excellent jackets. For the price these motorcycle jackets really come packed with lots of features you used to see only on the highest end gear.

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Gerde Applethwaite